PoliticsSomalia: A Victim of Terrorism

Melyn AtienoOctober 5, 202243511 min
Image source: Unsplash.com

Somalia is a country that is in the horn of Africa and is bordered by Ethiopia to the west, Kenya to the southwest and the Gulf of Eden to the north. Its capital city is Mogadishu. Majority of the people that reside in Somalia are Muslims.

According to International Crisis Group, Somalia has become part of the global war against terrorism. A simple search on google will show you that terrorism is the unlawful use of violence against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims. Terrorism is normally fueled by separatist movements, dominance of a particular religion or intentionally trying to end perceived government oppression. Terrorists involved in terrorism attacks can be individuals, groups or even states.  The terrorists may use grenades, bombs, guns, or suicide vests to terrorize civilians. According to the National Advisory Committee on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals, based in the U.S, there are six types of terrorism, which include; civil terrorism , political terrorism, non-political terrorism, quasi-terrorism, limited political terrorism and state terrorism. All these types of terrorism have a common goal, that is, to undermine state control.

In the 1990s an indigenous group, Al-Itihaad al-Islami aimed to establish an Islamic state in Somalia and in the Somali-inhabited region of eastern Ethiopia. It committed several acts of terrorism against Ethiopian government targets in 1995. Somalia has been characterized as a failed state, thus making it a magnet for some terrorists. Due to lack of structure, it is hard to trace suspicious financial transactions and shipment of goods and personnel, hence making Somalia a ‘safe haven’ for terrorists. This is according to a report written by International Crisis Group ( https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/horn-africa/somalia/somalia-countering-terrorism-failed-state ).

Another common terrorist group is the Al-Shabab group. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Al-Shabab group remains capable of carrying out massive attacks in Somalia and surrounding countries despite a long-running African Union offensive against the Islamist group. The Al- Shabab group was formed in the early 2000s and its main aim is to establish an Islamic state in Somalia by enforcing its own harsh interpretations of the Islam doctrines, banning cooperation with humanitarian agencies, and punishing suspected adulterers and thieves. It has carried out many deadly attacks not only in Somalia, but also in other countries in East Africa. For instance, it attacked a truck in Mogadishu, the capital city of Somalia, where more than eight people lost their lives.

In 2010, it carried out its first attack outside Somalia through suicide bombings, where seventy-four people were killed in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Three years down the line, they attacked the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, and killed sixty-seven people. In 2015, the Al-Shabab terrorist group killed one hundred and forty-seven people and injured at least seventy-nine people in an attack on Garissa University in the city of Garissa, which is located in the former North Eastern province of Kenya. This attack is said to be the second deadliest attack in Kenya since independence. There are still many more attacks that have been carried out by the Al-Shabab terrorist group, especially in East Africa.

Terrorism has crippled the economy of Somalia in many ways. It has led to a lot of insecurity due to extortion, kidnappings and attacks carried out by the terrorist groups. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, terrorism attacks degrade the Somali’s government’s ability to provide security and alleviate the dire humanitarian situation in the country. Furthermore, the influence of terrorism makes it hard to prevent the use of Somalia as a refuge for international terrorists.

Another thing to note is that terrorism has affected the tourism sector in Somalia. Since non-Somali residents are few, it can be very hard for a foreigner to go unnoticed, therefore, making the foreigner an easy target. This has raised a lot of fears internationally since many countries are prohibiting their citizens from travelling to Somalia. According to the government of United Kingdom,  terrorist groups have made threats against Westerners and those working for Western organizations in Somalia. In 2016 alone, there were 14 attacks on hotels, restaurants and the international airport of Mogadishu while in 2017, there were over 350 people killed during an attack carried out in the country’s capital city. This is according to (https://www.travelsafe-abroad.com/somalia/). The terrorism and high insecurity make Somalia a very dangerous place for tourists, hence crippling the development of the economy, since tourism is one of the sources of income for many developing counties.

Terrorism has also led to displacement of Somali residents. The harsh treatment from the Al-Shabab group makes many Somali residents to flee, in search for a peaceful environment. This has led to an increase in the number of internally displaced persons camps, especially in Mogadishu. The internally displaced people are living unassisted and are at a risk of indiscriminate killings, sexual violence, and limited access to basic needs such as food and water. In 2018, the number of internally displaced people in Mogadishu stood at 2.7 million. Due to insecurity and targeted attacks on aid workers, humanitarian agencies find it very hard to access the vulnerable populations, hence making it hard for the internally displaced people to get the help they need. This is according to the Human Rights Watch world report, written by Mohamed Abdiwahab(https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/somalia).

According to Zakaria Ousman Ramadane, who worked for the United Nations World Food Programme in Mogadishu from 1988 to 1991, better integration of national, regional, and international instruments based on the shared goals of greater security as well as development will result in more comprehensive and long-term solutions that will not only defeat terrorism in Somalia, but also prevent it by strengthening respective national governments and promoting socio-economic development regionally. According to Accord Organization, strategies and frameworks have been developed by the African Union and the United Nations, to counter terrorism and violent extremism in Somalia.

Melyn Atieno

Melyn Atieno. Strathmore University of Mathematical Sciences Writer at Cue Africa Email: melynatieno@gmail.com LinkedIn: Melyn Were

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